Mirrored Images: American Anthropology and American Culture, 1960-1980

By Susan R. Trencher | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident

This chapter traces some of the interactions between American anthropologists and the public realm 1 through the activity of the American Anthropological Association as a professional organization and the activities of anthropologists as citizens and scientists, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s. In Anthropology, the struggle with disciplinary identity, and specifically the terms of objectivity, was neither unique to fieldwork ethnographers nor limited to theoretical argument. It was in the broad American political arena that the struggle of anthropologists to engage the terms of objectivity in the field was brought home. Juxtaposition of American political events with the politics and politicization of the Association of American anthropologists reveals some of the American content of American anthropology.


I OBJECT

Part of the struggle of American anthropologists in both professional and public realms has been the product of the objectivity, which Anthropology claimed for itself as a science. In theory, strict definitions of science defined the boundaries of objectivity and required it in two venues: (1) the context of research and (2) the context in which research is applied (the public realm). In both these venues neutrality was a required "by-product" of objectivity. But, examination of events and discussion in the professional realm from the end of World War II through the early 1970s reveals anthropologists struggling to make sense of and address the public realm, and exposes shifting boundaries of science in the complex relationship between disciplinary, professional, and public realms. In this context, the turn to subjectivity as part of fieldworker ethnographies was part of a continuous

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